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10 Tips to free up storage space on your Android phone or tablet

A lot of people save a little cash by opting for the lower storage model when they buy a new Android smartphone or tablet. Manufacturers tend to overcharge for extra storage, so it often seems like a good place to save money. But apps and games are getting bigger all the time, and we all like to take photos and shoot video. The unfortunate truth is, 16GB of storage can fill up alarmingly fast. What do you do when there’s no room left? You turn to our space-saving Android storage tips.

Related: The best Android apps for almost any occassion

Use a MicroSD card

If you have the option to top up with a MicroSD card, you could claim an extra 64GB for around $25. Sadly, a lot of Android smartphone manufacturers have ditched the slot, but if you’re lucky enough to have one, a MicroSD card is the easiest way to extend that storage space.

You won’t be able to move every app onto your new card, but you can probably move some. Go to Settings > Apps and tap on each app listed under Downloaded then tap Move to SD Card if the choice is there. On some phones you can also check under Settings > Storage, scroll down and find the option Transfer data to SD card.

If you have a file manager app, then you can use it to move files from your internal storage to the MicroSD card. ES File Explorer is a good option if you want a file manager app. You may also find it easier to just plug your device into your computer or laptop and drag and drop files from your phone to your computer and then onto a MicroSD card. This is a good opportunity to back them up, too.

Use USB OTG

Even if you don’t have a MicroSD card slot, you can still potentially use a USB flash drive or an external hard drive to extend your storage space. Make sure that your device is USB OTG (USB On The Go) compatible and snag yourself a USB OTG cable. Now you can plug in any USB drive, a MicroSD card with an adapter, or an external hard drive, and use them to store and backup files or even play video files directly from them.

Get rid of apps and app data

If you take a look in Settings > Apps, you’ll see a list of everything that’s installed on your device and how much space each app or game is taking up. If you don’t use it regularly, then uninstall it. If it would be quick and easy to just download and install the next time you need it, then get rid of it now.

Apps will also take up more space over time as you use them. If you tap on an individual app in Settings > Apps, then you should see the option to Clear data. If you’re using the latest version of Android, you’ll have to tap on Storage in your chosen app. If you tap Clear data, you will reset the app. That could mean having to put your password in again and wiping a bunch of data you don’t care about, or it could mean losing your progress in a game. Sometimes your data is backed up separately. For example, if you sign into your Google account through Google Play Games, then it should save your game progress, but check first to avoid a nasty shock.

Clear your app cache

Something you can wipe without any risk is the cache. For apps that you don’t use frequently, this is space worth clearing up. You can do them individually via Settings > Apps > Clear cache, or you can wipe your whole cache partition. The instructions are different for different models, so look yours up. For a Nexus phone you turn off the device, then hold down the Power button and the Volume down button until you see the Android mascot on his back. Use Volume down to highlight Recovery mode and Power to select it. Press and hold Power and Volume up for three seconds, then let go of Volume up, but keep holding Power. You should see an options menu and you can use the volume keys to highlight wipe cache partition and the Power key to select it.

Stream music and movies

Don’t load music tracks, TV shows, or movies onto your Android phone or tablet. Use streaming services instead. Spotify and Netflix are our favorites, but there are a lot of other options to choose from. If you stream without a Wi-Fi connection, just remember to keep an eye on your data usage.

Related: Best music apps for your smartphone

Delete old files

If you have any old documents, videos, or other files on your Android device that you could live without, it’s time to get rid of them. Go to Settings > Storage > Other or Miscellaneous and tap Explore if prompted. Now you can tap and hold on an entry to select it and delete it.

Remember to take a look inside specific apps, too. Sometimes if you use a photo editing app or a document scanner you can end up with duplicates or old files you’ve forgotten about.

Delete old messages

You should also sift through your messages and delete anything unimportant, especially if it has an attachment. Most devices will also give you the option to automatically delete old messages. For example, on a Samsung phone, open up the Messages app and tap More > Settings > More settings and make sure Delete old messages is toggled on.

Limit the size of photos and videos

Photos and videos are likely to be taking up a lot of space on your Android phone. The camera will differ from device to device, but you should always take a look at your default settings and consider space. In general, the higher the resolution of your photos, the more space they will take up. For videos, you should also consider frame rate. Special modes like HDR, 4K, or slow-motion video will use up more space, so use them sparingly or offload files quickly.

Back up in the cloud

A good way to deal with photos and videos is to back them up in the cloud. There are lots of different options, but Google Photos is the best because it’s very easy to use and it’s completely free. It’s good practice to back up for safety reasons, but it also allows you to delete local files from your Android device without worrying. To make sure it’s set up to automatically back up your photos and videos open up the Google Photos app and tap the three horizontal lines to open the Menu, then Settings > Backup & sync and check your settings.

You can also get some free storage space with service like Dropbox or OneDrive. Offload all the files you don’t need on your device to a cloud service. You’ll still be able to download them easily when you need to.

Related: 11 free online storage services to claim your space in the cloud

Do a factory reset

This will wipe your Android phone or tablet clean, so make sure that everything you care about is fully backed up first. You may want to be selective about what you reinstall after a factory reset or you could end up back where you started. Try and use it as an excuse for a good clear out and don’t automatically reinstall everything. To try it, go to Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset.

That’s all of our Android space-saving tips for now, but feel free to add your own in the comments.